Amnesty’s new report on human rights and human rights defenders in Turkey: “In today’s Turkey, even merely existing is a struggle”

248774_Human rights statue Ankara

Human Rights Statue in Ankara, which was fenced off by authorities after it became central to a series of protests in 2017

Amnesty’s new report detailing the decline human rights in Turkey over the past several years, titled “Weathering the Storm: Defending human rights in Turkey’s climate of fear” was released today. The report highlights “the ways in which the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, to liberty and security, and to fair trials have been eroded” with damning statistics on the number of civilians arrested, NGOs and media outlets closed down, and journalists imprisoned since the failed coup attempt in July of 2016.

In today’s Turkey, even merely existing is a struggle. —Murat Celikkan, journalist and human rights defender

The bulk of the report focuses on some of the most iconic and important cases of prosecuted and imprisoned civil society figures, journalists, lawyers and NGO workers, included Osman Kavala, Eren Keskin, Zehra Dogan and Amnesty’s honorary chair Taner Kilic.

238116_ZEHRA DOGAN - Free Turkey journalists

Zehra Doğan, the editor of JINHA, was detained on 21 July 2016 in Mardin, southeastern Turkey, and remanded in pre-trial detention on 23 July on charges of membership of and making propaganda for a terrorist organization. 
“I was strip searched [by two women police officers] when I was detained in Mardin. When they took me to the Anti-Terrorism branch, I was strip searched again. Police officers told me ‘there is a state of emergency now, all the rights are ours, we can do whatever we want.’ They threatened me with torture. One of them suggested I should become his lover, that if I did so, he would save me. It was awful. I kept on saying I am a journalist.”  Photo by Refik Tekin

The report emphasizes the fear and self censorship that are now pervasive among Turks in all walks of life and the extremely damaging effect this has on civil society and human rights.

The aim is to maintain the climate of fear. When you are in police detention you are very scared for your family. We are all scared… It’s arbitrary, it’s not predictable, it cannot be effectively challenged so there is impunity. — Osman Isci, General Secretary of the Human Rights Association

The legal cover for this civil society crackdown is primarily attributed to the ongoing state of emergency, which was just renewed for a seventh time since the coup attempt. Amnesty calls it an “increasingly permanent feature of how Turkey governed” and warns that independent civil society may be completely wiped out in Turkey if it is not lifted.

You can take action, read and download the entire report here.


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